A transition is defined as a process of fundamental and irreversible change in a society’s culture, (institutional) structures and practices. It takes between 25 to 50 years for a transition to fully materialize. Transitions can be identified in societal systems like energy, mobility, water, agriculture and health care and are the result of a co-evolution of economic, cultural, technological, ecological and institutional developments at different levels.
Transitions are characterized by the emergence of new structures, cultures and practices. Other key characteristics are co-evolution, self-organization and adaptation. Examples of (possible) transitions are: from coal energy supply to gas energy supply, from a linear to a circular economy, or a transition from bureaucratic health care to human-centered care.
Many transitions have taken place or are currently in progress, but they don’t necessarily lead to a more sustainable society, ecology and economy. The transitions approach proposes that so called ‘wicked’ problems that persist over time require a fundamental change in the structures, cultures and practices of a societal system for the system to become more sustainable.
A sustainability transition is defined as a “radical transformation towards a sustainable society, as a response to a number of persistent problems confronting contemporary modern societies” (Grin et al 2010).
What is Transition Management?
Transition Management (TM) aims to deal with persistent societal problems by exploring and furthering more sustainable systems. It is an innovative governance concept based on complexity theory, social theories and insights from the field of governance. TM is a process-oriented and participatory steering philosophy that enables social learning through iterations between collective problem structuring, vision development, coalition building, experimenting and monitoring.
TM has been applied in many contexts, for example regarding communities at neighbourhood-level, towards a low-carbon future at city-level and towards a sustainable healthcare system at national level. Visit our projects page for more examples.
DRIFT is part of multiple networks related to transition studies, you can find more information on their websites:
Sustainability Transitions Research Network
Knowledge Network System Innovations (KSI)
Duurzame Gebiedsontwikkeling & TM
Find more resources on our publication page.
Vacancies & Internships